I experienced a life hack when I was cast into the realm of the spiritual world during a marijuana induced psychosis. I had a true out of body experience that was at once as horrifying as it was incredible. It was at the end of a marijuana bender that included non stop marijuana use from about 4 months into my newly found “sobriety” until I crashed, or was a victim of grace, about 2 months later. I was foolish. I should have known better. I had had previous episodes with disassociative trips on weed, but nothing like the one I had this time. I was initially in a dark place where I watched myself as I spewed horrid statements during outlandish hallucinations combining some truths with some incredulous non-truths. From there I flew up up up and away in the ambulance to Umass EMH. I was in and out during the ride, at one point coming on to the medic, and then shortly after, apologizing profusely. Once in the hospital I was on a better part of my trip, which ultimately ended in me giving birth to what must have been myself, a red headed baby. I was hoping I’d wake up in a new life, but to my dismay, I came down to notice some of my personal effects on a chair nearby and eventually the hospital room. It’s ok, you can laugh.
Truly horrifying. Truly enlightening. I cried out to the universe, or God, or my higher power, for help as I waited for my soon to be ex husband to do me the favor of letting me stay in the house for the night until I found another place to stay indefinitely. He was done with me, and he had every reason to be. God answered in a big way as I felt presence as I’d never felt before and haven’t since to that intensity and I knew I was at rock bottom of my addiction problem. I was completely terrified, as I was on the brink of losing everything, but also that I saw a shimmer of hope, brighter than I’d ever even imagine I’d glimpse. Since that very night I have remained clean and sober for going on 2 and almost a half years.
Subsequently, I have grown in my faith in a higher power who I choose to call God, have immersed myself in recovery from alcohol and addiction via the 12 step program of AA, and had the God given inner resources to face myself and do what I needed to do to remain sober at all costs. However, the psychedelic experience has stuck with me. When I’d describe it to people, they’d tell me it sounded like I’d been slipped some acid in with the weed. I don’t think so, as my minimal research has indicated, some people are prone to psychosis while using marijuana. What had happened? How had I been outside of my body and what did all the hallucinations and experiences I had mean?
I’ve been too busy to think too seriously about these concepts while dealing with a divorce and a move and single parent of four kids, until recently. Now that life is back in the school routine, we are settled in our apartment and I have a bit of time to explore my ever expanding knowledge of my lack of knowledge, regarding spirituality. Being raised in a fundamental Christian, family value type home, and despite my intellectual knowledge that it ain’t necessarily so, I have had this grim God father figure image of God. All guilt inducing, guy in the sky,as my takeaway from Christianity. This set of religious beliefs which I tried my damnedest to believe, turned me off to Christianity so much that I have been driven to explore other religious traditions. Ultimately, I believe, and this is only my personal belief, that all paths lead to the top of the mountain and religion is just means to a way, or as the saying goes, “religion is for people who don’t want to go to hell and spirituality is for those who have already been there”. Anyway, I have always wanted a way out of the religion box.
About a year ago, a woman at an AA meeting, mentioned a woman named Tara Brach,to whom she had recently been listening. Tara Brach is a psychologist, author and teacher in the Buddhist tradition. I filed the info. She’d been on a retreat with Tara Brach and said it was amazing. I filed it. At the time, I was too bombarded with life stuff to tune in. One day this past summer, I was about to go for a run and realized I couldn’t run one more step listening to the same raggedy old songs I had on my playlist, one more time. And I remembered this woman had said Tara had a podcast. I googled it and started off on my run, listening to a Tara Brach podcast on “virtual reality”. It was unlike anything I’d ever imagined Buddhism or even spirituality could be! I was hooked. Another life hack added to my increasing hack job.
Since then, I have listened to a podcast by either Tara Brach, Sharon Salzberg, Jonathan Foust or Ram Dass on every single run. Every single run. For months. I run a lot. It is refreshing, uplifting, eye-opening and truly inspiring. I once again had the feeling that I did when I was deposited onto the third floor detox center of Adcare hospital, that I’d found a home. Other alcoholics and addicts that told my story, Tara calmly and clearly, described a path which I didn’t even know I’d been on. She inserts these hilarious anecdotes and stories into her talks which often leaves me doubled over in laughter, mid-run. She also reads poems, mentions poets, authors, people I’d never ever heard of, who I’d immediately come home and google. I found Ram Dass. Never heard of him except for some powerful quotes I’d found to use on my Facebook coverpage in an attempt to make myself look deep, smart and healthy. Hah. Who is all three? Ram is another incredible speaker. I was told he even spoke at the Blue Plate, a past familiar watering hole of mine. A townie bar that wasn’t always a townie bar I gather. Ram Dass has been around forever, literally. He gave some talks that I listened to, from the late 60’s and early 70’s describing his experiences using LSD, with Timothy Leary. His psychedelic experiences reminded me of my own wacky weed trip. I’m sure some of you reading will now stop reading. It’s ok, I understand.
Ram Dass, as did Tara, did not exclude any religious tradition in their talks, they quoted the Bible, the Torah, the Koran and Buddha all within the same podcast. With this, the 12 step program I practice,even my religious background, including a Christian college education all merged together in some weird vortex of awareness. It was exhilarating. Truly. Maybe I was just ready for it.
Factoring in to my awakening, is the experience I have had raising my children. Three of my children have a genetic disorder called TSC or Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a genetic disorder that causes non-malignant tumors to form in many different organs, primarily in the brain, eyes, heart, kidney, skin and lungs. There is much variability as to how an individual is affected, mainly based on the size and location of these tumors in the brain. Seizures are a hallmark of the disease. All three of the kids had life threatening seizures, which, until they were stabilized, involved years of very frightening experiences. 911 and ambulance rides were frequent, visits to specialists at MGH, were and are still frequent. Surgeries, hospital stays, all the things as a parent, one fears, are part of our lives. My oldest daughter, who is now 18, had emergency brain surgery when one of the tumors in her brain triggered hydrocephalus. Beyond the medical issues were the early intervention therapies, physical therapy, occupational and behavioral therapies. People. At our house. Almost every day. There to work with each one of the kids sequentially, as their issues emerged. As I look back, I see how we were completely living day to day with raging PTSD, waiting for the next emergency, that seemed to roll in just as things were resembling normal.
As I mentioned preceding, I turned to alcohol, and then pharmaceuticals to self medicate until it became far more than self medicating and I was a full blown addict taking care of three atypical kids and one more typical child, which really has thrown a wrench in the mix. It’s been quite a journey, for myself, my ex husband and more importantly, my kids, who without realizing it, embody a human incarnation which is and will be unbelievable challenging. Finally, thanks to my higher power knocking willful, hard headed me, flat on my face to get my attention, have discovered my path as a guide, teacher, loving caregiver a.k.a., mother of these rare souls. And I don’t do it alone. They have a father, who cares. And supports them. Regardless, it has taken me many years of suffering as victim. Poor me, sitting at the bottom of a well of pity, drowning my sorrows daily, to get this. Thank God I did! It’s all grace now. No matter what. The more I am able to open to awareness, the more I can be here, now, for them and for myself.
I am linked on Facebook to many support groups for parents of kids with TSC, which is one of the most wonderful aspects of social media, that I’ve found. In a short post, I can share my experience, strength and hope with another parent struggling with exactly something which I’ve experienced on my journey, and vice versa. What a gift! This disorder of TSC affects 1 in 6000! One in six thousand is a lot. A hell of a lot, when one looks at the prevalence of rare diseases. These parents and kids are in pain. It’s a cold hard rain when one receives the diagnosis of TSC in emergency rooms across the country and around the world. We, their father and myself, are lucky. It could have been far far worse as far as severity of the manifestations of TSC in our kids. They are all doing really really well! Now it’s mainly guiding them through these early years to the point where they can be independent and find their own way. I’ve learned that you don’t own a child. They are souls that we are here to guide, as did our parents for us. This mindfulness I’ve recently discovered has brought everything together and is the all encompassing life hack.
There is so so much more! I want to write a book. Maybe. I have to life in the now and today I am not writing that book. Today I am going for a run. I’ll begin to conclude (lol) with a line from one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Peace, blessings and prayers as you reading this seek whatever might be your path while having this human experience. Thanks for listening.